As if the pressures of being a teenager aren’t enough, imagine you also have a medical condition that makes you lose all your hair. While most teenage girls would struggle with their identity in these situations, Mona has thrived. Mona is a 15 year old jiu-jitsu competitor with alopecia,an auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss. Not only has Mona had an impressive jiu-jitsu journey, her and her family have made a tremendous impact in their efforts to raise awareness about her condition.
Mona has been participating and competing in jiu-jitsu from a young age. At eight years old, she noticed the signs of alopecia. Like most people, her parents were unaware of alopecia and what it could mean for Mona. The alopecia came on heavy and her mother decided to shave Mona’s head. This was a big decision, and as a family they were concerned that it would affect her in jiu-jitsu. They didn’t want the other kids to worry or treat her differently.
A family friend who also had experience with alopecia stepped up and spoke to the children and members of Mona’s gym. She explained that it was going to look different, but she was not sick or contagious.
No one at jiu-jitsu treated Mona any differently, and her friends and training partners were supportive. Mona’s mom commented, “Jiu-jitsu helped her cope because people treated her the same.” Mona continued to train consistently, not letting the alopecia slow her down. She continued to compete and have an impressive level of commitment and motivation. Her mom admitted to having a harder time than Mona when coping with the disease, “The first year i think I had a harder time than she did, I wanted it to be me.”
After the first year or so, Mona’s mother began to speak out about alopecia while traveling to tournaments all over the country. She could pick people out of the crowd that she could tell had alopecia. She began to go out of her way to start conversations with these people, creating an empowering dialogue connecting people affected by alopecia.
Mona’s family invested in her first wig after shaving her head., They were shocked by the astronomical cost and work of a good wig. A lot went into the wig buying process and fitting, leading Mona’s family to the idea of her foundation, The Bald Strong Mona Foundation. They now help, people with alopecia buy wigs when they can’t afford them on their own.
Her foundation sells t-shirts, hats, hoodies,stickers, and other items to raise money.. Her family works at jiu-jitsu tournaments to spread awareness about her foundation and what they do. Mona partakes in alopecia support meetings where people are often inspired by the confidence and bravery she exhibits at such a young age.
While her mother is very vocal about Mona’s alopecia, Mona hardly talks about her condition. Instead she continues to hold her head high and gracefully present herself with confidence that undeniably inspires everyone who meets her. . She is an impressive young lady without considering all that she has done for those alopecia. Mona has been wildly successful in competing, and travels all over the country to compete in tournaments and participates in seminars, as well as teaches children’s classes at her home gym.
A quote that stuck out to me on their website, “Let Your Smile Change the World, Don’t Let the World Change Your Smile.” Mona’s smile in spite of her alopecia is definitely one that has and will continue to bring positive change.
For more information on the Bald Strong Mona foundation, to make a donation and follow Mona’s journey visit http://www.baldstrongmonafoundation.org/about.html
Victoria is a blue belt and has been training jiu-jitsu for almost four years. She is a student, and enjoys traveling, writing and training whenever she can. When she’s not on the mats or at the beach Victoria enjoys spending time with close friends and is always looking for exciting new experiences.